Movies of Kielsowski -- Three Colors : Blue

                                In Kieslowski's "The Double of Veronique", Veronique remains immature. She is fascinated by representations of reality that promise fantastically deep and rich experiences, which prevents herself from knowing or loving the actual source of these phenomena. In Kieslowski's "Three Colors: Blue", the reverse could be said of its main character, Julie (Juliette Binoche).

                             "Blue" is about Frenchwoman who loses her husband and daughter in an automobile crash and as result of this trauma tries to commit a kind of psychic suicide by obliterating her identity and her memories. She does this by selling off her possessions, closing up her house, tearing up a musical score on which she and her husband, Patrice, a famous composer, had been working, and moving to a Paris neighborhood where she hopes she can live in anonymity.

                           At a real-estate office where she is looking for an apartment, she replies to the agent's inquiry about her occupation that she does "Nothing -Nothing at all" (the agent is played by Philippe Volter -- Alexandre in "Veronique"). This refrain is repeated later to her mother whom she visits at a nursing home: "I'll only do what I want to know. Nothing. I don't want any belonging, any memories ...... no friends, no love."

                          For the narcissistic Veronique, the world was a mirror of her psychic need for a mother. For the traumatized Julie, the world is a representation divested of all significance and desire. This is shown brilliantly earlier in the film, as she lays in her hospital bed after the accident, through the use of an immense closeup of the eye that contains only the mirror images of her surroundings, including her attending doctor. Her eye is a twin of the miniature television her friend, Oliver brings her so that she can watch the funeral of her daughter and husband.

                         In a moment of intense pathos , as Julie touches the tiny television screen depicting the two coffins, the viewer experiences a powerful overlay of Kieslowski's cross references. The television monitor reminds us of the ending of "Decalogue I" where the image of Pawel after his death lingers, frozen onto a television screen, of Veronika's glass-topped coffin and her treasured glass ball, of the mirror in which Veronique and Alexandre spot each other, and now, in "Blue", of the cold mirroring eye of Julie herself. It is as though under the impact of traumatic losses the familiar reality of the world takes on an uncanny alien aspect, or deadness, making it unreal, nothing more than a phantom.

                        Julie cannot mourn her dead daughter and husband or cry. It is as though her eyes now are not real human eyes, but cold mirrors, like the icy surface of the fateful pond in "Decalogue I." The blue tints of the cinematography itself reinforce the tones of melancholy, coolness, and boundless nothing, evoking the collapse of Julie's world.  

                         In her act of withdrawal, not only does Julie try to strip the luminous sheen off the everyday world -- highlighted by a scene where she angrily scrapes her knuckles along a stone wall -- so that for her it has no significance or desirability, she also tries to remove any of her features that may arouse around another subject's desire for her.

                      Julie own elderly mother spends her days in a nursing home gazing at the most insipid images television has at its disposal. Suffering from something like Alzheimer disease, she has lost her memory and misrecognizes her daughter, confusing her with her own sister. She is objectively what her daughter would need to become to succeed in her nihilistic retreat from reality, a blank eye peering at a meaningless screen. But there is a gap between mother and daughter that ensures that Julie will not be caught, like Veronique in nostalgic longing for her lost mother.

                       The mother is lost, but she is also embarrassingly present precisely as one who is lost, repelling rather than inviting a psychic union or doubling, offering thereby a kind of escape from narcissistic immaturity not available for Veronique. Whereas, Veronique was entranced by the dream that there was an other who bore her name (Veronika) to replace the mother who knew her name, Julie is compelled to accept the existence of a mother who misnames her. In this misrecognition lies hope for Julie's growth into a more complete human subject.

                       While Veronique was a presence haunted by the absence of her double, Julie throughout the film is an absence haunted by a presence of musical phrases that return from her unconsciousness like powerful waves. To take one example, while she is swimming in the blue waters of an indoor pool, musical fragments from her husband's unfinished concerto wash over her as the screen image fades away completely for a few seconds. Despite her conscious choice to retreat from human contact and to erase her past, there remains in Julie a powerful undercurrent of will and desire associated with the music her husband has composed.  

                       It is this periodic, resurgent life forces that saves her from the psychosis of a complete withdrawal from reality and actually moves her to finish the concerto herself. The music erupts with a energy, as though memory were an palpable thing, capable at any point of disrupting ordinary existence.

                       With Julie, the soul of a woman has truly grown from the primary narcissism and fantasies of Veronique to mature of acceptance of reality and of the other. It is a soul whose moral power and transcendental life we have been privileged to behold, in "Three Colors: Blue" and thanks to the genius of Kieslowski.

Kieslowski on Three Colors : Blue


Bushra said...

Great review!

Anonymous said...

Fantastic ! You have reviewed it very well. Was planning to watch the works Kielsowski soon.

Puru@ShadowsGalore said...

Beautiful movie and an even more impressive review

Arun Kumar said...

@Bushra, Thank you.

@themoonstone, Thanks for the comment. Kieslowski movies will surely be a rewarding movie experience.

@Puru, Thanks for the comment.